When Dying Light first came out in 2015, it was considered a bit of a surprise hit. In addition to its dense cityscapes and solid parkour gameplay, the open-world zombie sandbox received a slew of positive reviews for its satisfyingly violent take on cooperative first-person combat. Dying Light 1 has received extensive support for several years after its release, with new content drops, new activities, and other features designed to keep players coming back for more. After a notoriously long and reportedly turbulent development cycle, the game’s sequel has finally been released seven years after the original.
Dying Light 2 takes place several years after the events of the first game and puts you in command of a new character in entirely new settings. Survivors are left to eke out a bleak existence in a handful of enclaves after a mysterious virus wipes out the majority of humanity. The virus is still unknown. In the end, it’s a new dark age in which virtually everyone is infected and the only thing they can do is manage the progression of the disease with makeshift drugs and ultraviolet (UV) lights.
Dying Light 2 comes out during a particularly busy period, with sure-fire megahits such as Elden Ring, Pokémon Legends, and Horizon Forbidden West all releasing during the same time frame as Dying Light 2. Is it possible for Dying Light 2 to carve out a niche in this unusually crowded month of February? I believe it is possible. This is Dying Light 2: Keep Your Soul Alive.
- We are not afraid to raise the stakes with high-stakes nighttime gameplay.
- Risk vs. reward gameplay that has been meticulously planned
- The combat systems are absolutely beautiful.
- Astonishingly, the open world has a great deal of verticality.
- When it comes to telling the story, it falls a little short.
- When playing on an Xbox Series X, the game’s performance is a little disappointing.
- Many activities become repetitive very early on in their development.
Setting, performance, and sound design for Dying Light 2
The visuals in the original Dying Light were particularly impressive, and this was one of the game’s most distinguishing features. Considering the time period, Dying Light was a standout title thanks to its stunning vistas, dense and thoughtful map design, and impressive lighting. Dying Light 2 is a continuation of the series’ tradition, albeit with a few exceptions.
The original game took place in the fictional city of Harran, and now we’ve relocated to a new fictional city somewhere in Western Europe, which is the setting for this new game. The map is divided into three sections: outlying areas, complex interior locales, and an impressively vertiginous downtown area, which is dotted with skyscrapers that are intended to entice parkour enthusiasts to participate. Other areas of the map have been contaminated with strange chemicals that the authorities used in an attempt to contain the virus, leaving pockets of poisoned and hazardous terrain that increase the difficulty of traversing them. The game also includes a number of custom NPC hubs and areas, which, ironically, help to give the game a genuine sense of life, given the large amount of death you’ll encounter in the game’s decrepit hospital interiors and mutant-infested tunnels.
As the game’s title suggests, Dying Light 2 revolves around the concept of night and day cycles. This is accomplished by retaining the game’s visually stunning lighting effects. Beautiful vistas are painted by sunrises and morning mists against the backdrop of a dark, ruined world, creating truly breathtaking scenes.
In Dying Light 2, the bodies are piling up like a mountain. There is a constant sense of gloom in the world, with NPCs preaching the end of the world on one street while burying the dead on another. Because of the photosensitivity of the mysterious virus that has wiped out civilization, infected zombies swarm in unimaginable numbers and gain strength, speed, and intelligence during the night.
At least when playing in performance mode, it’s truly impressive how many mobs Dying Light 2 can handle on-screen at the same time without noticing a noticeable performance degradation. Despite the fact that the numbers aren’t as high as they were in games like Dead Rising, dropping a grenade in a crowd of zeds can result in spectacular cascades of gore and giblets to the ground. When you strike an enemy with a bladed weapon, they bleed profusely and realistically decapitate or pop, depending on whether you’re using a bladed or a blunt weapon to kill them. The incredible dynamic music system, as well as the impactful feel of the combat and the world at large, contribute to the overall impactful feel of the game.
With very reactive and dynamic music and distortion for different events and occurrences, Dying Light 2 boasts some of the best sound design I’ve heard in recent years, and I’m not just talking about the music. The greater the number of zombies that engage you, the greater the increase in tension.
Although you are performing parkour combos, the music reacts to your momentum, propelling you forward even more quickly than usual. The entire system, from its grand overtures to its more minute details, such as the air raid sirens reminiscent of those heard in Silent Hill that signal the approach of dusk, is extremely well-designed. Dynamic music is something that many games are doing these days, but Dying Light 2 appears to take it to a whole new level of complexity.
My biggest issue with Dying Light 2‘s visuals and presentation is the game’s performance on the Xbox One X Series of systems. The game settles down to around 60 frames per second in “performance” mode at 1080p with relative ease, but if you don’t have the best Xbox One television, i.e., one that doesn’t have FreeSync, you may notice screen tearing during frame dips. Although the game also includes “quality” and “resolution” graphics modes, neither is usable because the frame rate drops from 60 frames per second to as low as 20 frames per second, and sometimes even lower, depending on the situation. However, I believe almost everyone, at least on Xbox Series X, will be playing this game in performance mode, unless Techland can come up with some new technology to improve the situation.
Dying Light 2: The Telling of the Story (no spoilers)
As previously stated, Dying Light 2 takes place several years after the events of the first game, with society having deteriorated even further as a result of the initial wave of infections. In the meantime, virtually everyone has been infected, and the only way to keep the photosensitive virus at bay is to use UV lamps and increasingly scarce medications. As previously stated, the infection plays an important role in both story and gameplay, and the seamless integration of gameplay elements with the story itself is commendable — more on that in a moment.
This time around, you take on the role of Aiden Caldwell, who is on a mission to track down his younger sister. During their childhood, Aiden and Mia were subjected to experiments by the militaristic Global Relief Effort (GRE), which went to extreme lengths to cure and contain the outbreak. A pilgrim in this new world, Aiden travels outside the walled cities as a courier and a scavenger, earning a reputation as a hardworking individual. Pilgrims have a bad reputation for thievery and are generally viewed with suspicion by city dwellers, who attempt to hang Aiden when he first arrives in the city on his journey.
The game’s feudal, medieval society, which draws inspiration from the real-world dark ages, is presented in the game’s initial presentation as a place where superstition and baseless accusations take precedence over justice and common sense. In Dying Light 2, some of the more interesting themes are not explored in sufficient depth or with sufficient consistency, and this is a disappointment to me. The first part of the game leads me to believe that water is scarce and people are in desperate need, but it isn’t until later in the game that you come across a large nightclub where people are having a good time that I realize this is not the case. Aiden’s portrayal of his character can be inconsistent at times as well. Although he is repeatedly betrayed by various characters in the first act, he appears to be eager to trust every stranger almost immediately on a consistent basis.
Dying Light 2 introduces some new elements to its plot and world in order to make them more engaging, with varying degrees of success. There are story choices to be made in the game, but, as with The Witcher or Cyberpunk 2077, it’s difficult to tell how much of a difference your choices make without playing through the game a second time — something I didn’t have to do because I finished it before the submission deadline. If they do offer divergent outcomes, there is the possibility of some replay value, but for the vast majority of decisions that revolve around supporting civilians or supporting the authoritative Peace Keepers, there is only one option. In addition, the game does not judge either faction in a binary manner, which I believe makes the game’s choices less satisfying as a result. Either the PKs or the survivors, each has their own set of flaws and advantages, and the “gray areas” between each faction make decisions feel arbitrary. Some of these choices, as we’ll see in a moment, have gameplay ramifications as well, which we’ll go over in more detail later.
The antagonistic renegades are the third faction in Dying Light 2. They are comprised of criminals, mercenaries, and psychopaths, and they are led by a malevolent scientist known as Waltz. Waltz is a likable character who contributes to the story’s progression, but I suspect Resident Evil fans will find it difficult to avoid drawing comparisons between him and Albert Wesker, both in terms of appearance and delivery — complete with Wesker’s iconic trench coat. As a result, many of the overarching plot elements are familiar zombie apocalypse territory, despite the fact that Waltz’s character acting and dialogue are both quite good in this film.
Overall, and without giving anything away, Dying Light 2‘s story is a passable reimagining of the well-trodden zombie apocalypse diaspora that has been done before. When used properly, the game can serve as an excellent canvas for the creation of unique story events and gameplay moments, interweaving gameplay mechanics with plot twists in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Despite this, I found myself becoming disinterested in the story and the haphazard world-building fairly quickly. Fortunately, the gameplay goes to some lengths to make up for it.
Dying Light 2’s gameplay is described below.
However, it is the game’s light-bending night/dark gameplay loop that makes it stand out, as it seamlessly blends the core of the story with high-stakes and often nerve-wracking scenarios that add depth to the open-world formula. Dying Light 2 is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
As previously stated, you become infected with the virus during the game’s opening sequence, which leaves Aiden particularly vulnerable to the effects of darkness. When you’re alone and in the dark, the disease progresses until it effectively turns you into a zombie husk, much like one of the game’s tens of thousands of enemy mobs. The majority of the game’s best loot can be obtained during the day, but in order to advance your stats and even progress through the story, you’ll need to deal with the darkness on a regular basis in order to obtain some of the game’s best rewards.
The open-world gameplay becomes significantly more difficult at night, much like it did in the first game. In order to survive, zombies become more agile, intelligent, and louder. They congregate in swarms, forcing you to flee rather than engage. Even more heavily mutated “volatiles” and other variants appear at night, and taking them down effectively necessitates the use of more intensive tactics and weapons.
During your flee, the game’s music increases in volume, and there’s even a threat meter in the vein of Grand Theft Auto, which generates gradually increasing threats the longer you’re away from the safety of a UV-lit outpost. Conversely, traversing the night will reward you with larger EXP boosts and better items, creating a satisfying feedback loop based on the trade-off between risk and reward. This sense of high-stakes play is carried over into a variety of additional in-game activities as well.
In order to advance your character’s development, you’ll have to track down inhibitor injections that the GRE placed in caches across various facilities in an attempt to contain the virus. In addition to being constantly filled with photosensitive zombies due to their constant interior location, these areas are best accessed at night because many of them will leave the confines to roam outside. The darkness adds tension in and of itself, creating layers of claustrophobia as a result of the decreased visibility. The management of your own infection is yet another layer to consider. A timer appears at the top of the screen, which indicates how far the virus has progressed while it is in darkness. It creates a sense of urgency that can easily cause you to become panicked, and of course, the zombies in Dying Light 2 become very upset when you make loud noises in the dark, as you can imagine.
Fortunately, the game provides you with a plethora of tools with which to deal with zombie hordes during your gameplay. Many of the weapon types from the original game are back, as are many of the attacks that were previously available. Decoys, grenades, spreading fire, explosive barrels, and other weapons provide creative zombie hunters with an extensive toolkit. Drop kicking enemies off rooftops is just as satisfying as it was in the first game.
Taking out enemy limbs or crushing zombie skulls never gets old, and you’ll feel your power incrementally grow as you progress through the game’s strength, gear, and skill tree progressions New zombie types will force you to rethink your strategy, and the game’s robust, if inconsistent, stealth mechanics will allow you to customize your playstyle to a certain extent. Although, at the time of writing, I believe bow weapons are a little undertuned.
The amount of mileage a gamer gets out of repetition will vary depending on the gamer. As someone who has grown tired of the same old open-world games, I could definitely tell when the game was starting to drag. The increased stakes found in nighttime gameplay, on the other hand, helped to keep me engaged at times when the story and its relatively shallow side quests couldn’t keep me interested in the game. Even with the abundance of looting boxes and corpse mountains, looting boxes and corpse mountains can become tedious after a while, especially when upgrades and crafting materials are in short supply. When it comes to Dying Light 2, there isn’t a game that is more in desperate need of an AoE loot mechanic than this one.
One aspect of cooperative play that I did not have the opportunity to test was the sandbox mode. In co-op play, players have the opportunity to essentially play the entire game with their peers. Players will also be able to cast votes on story decisions, and enemies will gain additional health to compensate for the increased damage output caused by multiple players. Crying, I can see Dying Light 2 being significantly more enjoyable with friends, assuming you have any at all.
As a solo player, I found Dying Light 2 to be a relatively enjoyable game in the overall scheme of things. I appreciate what Techland has attempted to do here to shake up the open-world formula, which many other big AAA publishers are afraid to implement for fear of harming those elusive engagement figures — a real challenge, and I applaud them for their efforts.
The fact that your decisions have the potential to shape the world by granting factions visible control of the city is a nice touch, but it doesn’t feel like it contributes significantly to the overall experience. Additionally, the story struggles to hold your attention, although it may have been designed to be light in order to accommodate the fact that most people will be playing in co-op. Generally speaking, I believe fans of the original will enjoy what Techland has put together here, but if you’re tired of open-world games, I don’t believe Dying Light 2 goes far enough to make a lasting impression on you.
Is it worth your time to play Dying Light 2?
Dying Light 2 is a solid game that doesn’t have any major flaws. The combat is enjoyable and well-executed, with impressive gore mechanics and impactful melee systems to keep things interesting. It is also well designed in terms of parkour gameplay, with a city that feels believable in terms of its traversability. Dying Light 2 also stands out for its layered night and day gameplay, which alters the game dramatically depending on the time of day you are playing. Intense competition for higher stakes at night can result in terrifying situations that reward players well for their efforts.
After reaching the halfway point of the game, my sense of fatigue hit me hard and didn’t let up for the rest of the game. I, on the other hand, am someone who has grown somewhat weary of open-world games at this point. If, on the other hand, you’re someone who can’t get enough of open-world games, I’m pretty confident that you’ll find a lot to enjoy about Dying Light 2 as well.
Although it is unlikely to rank among the best Xbox games available, I was kept on the edge of my seat during some of the game’s more unique sequences. In addition to the excellent chase mechanics, the dark zones are appropriately terrifying, and the world itself is absolutely stunning. I believe Dying Light 2 will be a satisfying experience for fans of open-world games, especially for groups of friends playing together.
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